Brother Derek brought us an important reminder of God’s promises this week. He spoke on the theme of God’s everlasting presence in our lives, and that this is assured as He is true in keeping His promises.
Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28: 19-20).” How powerful! Jesus in His parting words to His disciples not only gives them a mission, but promises to remain with them to the end of the age! His followers are not to be abandoned or left to fend for themselves. This mirrors His previous declaration in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We followers of The Way have Jesus as our companion throughout our walks.
In a parallel passage, the people of Israel were told (though it has a prophetic tie to those of us grafted in as well), “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41: 8-10).”
God made a covenant with Abraham, and this was reinforced with Moses. He (God) would be their God, and they His people. God as we have noted is true to His promises. People often get it wrong. Humanity did in the garden, and even when as a group we had totally reneged on our role on Earth, God redeemed Noah. So too, when Israel messed up (in the desert, at Ai, in the face of the Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, etc., etc.). He remained their God.
We can often feel abandoned. But this is a false assumption. Look at Israel. They brought most all of their own misfortune in Old Testament times upon themselves. Yet, God raised up Judges, Prophets, and Kings to lead them back. And once again on the “straight and narrow,” they were restored.
But God then went that step further. He sent not another mere prophet, but Messiah (His own only Son). And why? To die for us! An ultimate act of compassion. Brother Derek made an important point here. Even this act of sacrifice was not an end point. Yes, dying for us is beyond comprehension, but He did so because we were not merely servants but friends. And better still, Jesus did not remain dead, but rose!
He died for us, but He then opened the gates of Heaven for us. Death itself was defeated, and He has gone to prepare a place for us – His friends. He is there, watching over us. Watching over, guiding, and protecting – even to the end of the age. We are not abandoned.
All too often though, we forget this. We let the setbacks in life overwhelm us and make us moan or even doubt. Jonah did. Job did. Sadly, Judas did. Derek reminded us, that as long as we have breath and repent, we have the faithful promise of forgiveness. Jonah got that. Peter got that at the lakeside, but Judas succumbed to the despair of his sin. We need to rest on the promise.
We may again feel insignificant, but God sees us as we are, and in the relationship (remember He is with us always) lifts us up to our potential. The shepherd boy, David, overlooked even by his own father was not overlooked by God. He was lifted up to kingship!
So too, Job. While abandoned by his wife, facing the judgement of his “friends,” and suffering the loss of family, wealth, and health – he was not abandoned by God. God forbade that Job be killed, and when the man continued to be trusting, even in the face of all that beset him, God lifted him up, and restored all he had lost, and was given even more.
Stresses and trials may test us, but we can be assured – we are loved and He is with us.